Hugh Macdonald began his long, award-studded career at the National Film Unit, where at 25 he directed ambitious three-screen spectacular This is New Zealand (1970), which was seen by 400,000 New Zealanders. In the 80s he produced Oscar-nominated short The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil and established his own company, continuing a busy diet of commercial films, train documentaries and animation.
Using the power of documentary film Frank Chilton made a difference to the lives of disabled children in New Zealand and around the world. The films he directed for the National Film Unit won many awards and he was honoured by the Queen with an OBE for services to the handicapped.
A passionate advocate for Māori creative control, director Merata Mita (1942 — 2010) chronicled landmark moments of protest and division in Aotearoa. Her work included Patu!, a documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour, and Mauri (1988), only the second feature to have a Māori woman as director. She features in documentaries Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen and Merata Mita - Making Waves.
The late Margaret Thomson is arguably the first New Zealand woman to have directed films. Thomson spent much of her film career working in England, plus two years back in New Zealand at the National Film Unit. Her NFU short Railway Worker (1948) is regarded as a classic.
Selwyn Toogood hit the big time with It's in the Bag, a long running quiz show which he originated on radio and later took to television. His catch cry, "the money or the bag?" has become part of New Zealand folklore. He was also the self-described thorn between four roses, as host of daily panel show Beauty and the Beast.
Tony Isaac played a major hand in creating some of the key TV dramas of 1970s Kiwi television. He produced New Zealand's first continuing television drama Pukemanu, co-created Close to Home, our first soap, and was one of the main forces behind The Governor, arguably the most ambitious TV drama yet made on New Zealand soil. Isaac passed away in May 1986.
One of NZ’s most experienced and prolific TV producers, Ross Jennings cut his teeth at Avalon in the late 1970s on dramas like Close to Home and Moynihan. After stints as Head of Drama at TVNZ and at Crawfords in Melbourne, he began a long association with Screentime Communicado where he created early reality TV series Middlemore, and Police 10-7. Jennings passed away on 25 March 2016.
A pioneer of the commercial use of 16mm film in post-war New Zealand, Robert Steele is arguably a lost name in the local screen industry. A portrait photographer who was making amateur films in 1930, he spent several years in his native Australia before returning to NZ for good in 1937. Steele screened his films at workplaces and trade fairs, and was a major producer of commercials in the first decade of Kiwi television.
Trailblazing broadcaster Shirley Maddock, ONZM, was making and presenting television in 1960, when the medium first began in New Zealand. After doing theatre in London and radio in New York, she went on to produce and present a series of documentaries in her homeland, and wrote a bestselling book to accompany 1964 series Islands of the Gulf. Maddock passed away on 10 October 2001. She was 72.
Should Clive Sowry ever choose to enter Mastermind, his knowledge of the National Film Unit will give his competitors a definite run for their money. Sowry worked at the government filmmaking organisation for 14 years, including nine as the NFU's archivist. He went on to undertake a programme that saved 100s of local films, and has written often about filmmaking in New Zealand — including for NZ On Screen.